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Previews 11 Mar 2008

Cheltenham Festival Day 1

This years festival has steamed its way on to the scene it seems this season as the National Hunt season starts it long wind down to the flat season starting with what is the greatest horse racing festival of the calendar year and this years festival stands to be just as good as the years that have past. The weather leading up to the festival has no doubt played havoc with a few ante post coups as the course was being watered last week and now with the weather taking a turn for the worse we are likely to have slightly more testing conditions then expected. However it is due to clear up and by post time on the first day the Cheltenham roar should be in full swing.

2.00 Supreme Novice hurdle

Doesn't look a vintage year this time around and one trainer in particular looks to get of to a flying start with no less then four runners in the opener in which three are towards the front of the market that is led by a grade 1 from Ireland in the shape of undefeated Muirhead for the Noel Meade team.

Paul Nichols is sure to have a strong Cheltenham with the ammo he has at his disposal and even though Friday is the main day for the champion trainer he will want to get of to a flying start in a race he won in the colours of the One Man two seasons ago with Noland. His Rippling Ring made a striking impression on debut when hacking up in good fashion at Doncaster and there has been steady support for what looks the number 1 string for the yard. There 2nd String Pasco has done nothing wrong in 3 races so far this season and handles these big race fields well based on the win last time out at Newbury where he has raced in all his races to date. Nicky Henderson has a surprise inclusion in this race in the shape of the 4yo Binocular who is another who is undefeated and will need to improve on the performance last time out. Gets allowance for being a 4yo he may blow the stats out of the water by landing this race for the youngsters who have been used sparingly in this race over the years.

Khyber Kim looks likely to be the best of the four for Nicky Henderson in which stable number one jockey Micky Fitz sticks with this ex-classy flat horse despite the very poor show last time out and the cut in the ground should help him bounce back to form with a stronger test of stamina likely. The Irish will be looking for the potentially top class Muirhead to get there festival of to a flyer and he looks the best bet from the Emerald Isle for this handicap ahead of Cork all Star, The Gloves are off and Sophocles who caught the eye when last seen tackling this hill in the Champion Bumper.

Advise Bet - Muirhead 1pt win @ 8-1 (Bf 8's) & Khyber Kim 1pt @ 9-1 (Bf 10's)

2.35 The Arkle Novice Chase

The 2nd race on the card for 2 Mile chase named after the great Arkle looks a strong renewal of the race in which the One Man Colours Of Noland are very well fancied to make it yet another Arkle Triumph for Connections and Paul Nichols who trained the top class Azertyuiop to win this race 4yrs ago. Noland improved last time to win at Sandown even though he was well expected to land the race on route, visually maybe not as impressive as the time before when beating trees at Folkestone he is one of the best novice jumpers around this season and should complete this race as he doesn't make a mistake. A winner two seasons ago at this track he has that extra stamina in his locker that can see him go close over this stiff track. However in Tidal bay he has a rival who matches the profile of past winners such as My Way De Solzan and Monets Garden who went close the time before. Looks like he stays further connections of this horse believe he possess the speed to win over the shorter trip with 2.5M more likely to be his future trips. The Cheltenham track and championship pace will help him put the Doncaster defeat behind him and with ground very much in favour he looks to hold a very strong chance.

The tough to assess Moon over Miami is a horse that could still run a big race here today, as he seems to run a big race every other race and was poor last time out. The stiff track suits his style of running and expect him to make his presence felt as Charlie Mann thinks the world of him and will have him spot on for today's race. Kruguyrova gets the handy weight allowance but may find a few of these two good and Tony McCoy wont be expecting to much from the consistent mare.

The Irish Will be hoping either Clopf or Thyne Again can produce some magic to land this event for the first time since the great Moscow flyer and the latter looks to have the stronger form coming into this race, but both will need to prove that this tough track will play to there strength and with that in mind it looks like the UK will retain the Arkle for another year with Tidal Bay looking the likely victor.

Advised Bet - Tidal bay 2pts win @ 7-1 (BF 7's) & Moon Over Miami 1pt @ 16-1 (Bf 22's)

3.15 Champion Hurdle

Recent years of the champion hurdle has been superb races and last seasons anti climax will hopefully be caste in to the shadow today's with a performance of true class from one of today's runners. The performances of the runners lining up in this championship race this season is yet to show one horse as a genuine superstar or maybe a true grade 1 hurdler and it is crying out for a superstar after being blessed in recent years with Istabraq, Rooster Booster, Hardy Eustace and the sorely missed Brave Inca this season.

Harchibald has the potential to be a all time great as not even the great Istabraq got as close as Harchibald did 3yrs back to winning the champion hurdle on the bit. Worried out of it that year Harchibald didn't have enough resolution that day to see off the gallant Hardy Eustace and compensation is long overdue with injury maybe potentially taking the edge of the horse. If this is to be his year he will need everything to fall into place against a lot fresher types and his time may have sadly pasted.

Last years winner Sublimity performance put up in this race has not been surpassed by any of the challenger's performance this season and last years race wasn't a vintage year in my view. Blew up in this seasons Bula behind the Free going sort Osana he has a lot to prove as last year when swinging through to take it up he didn't find as much as first thought and just a feeling that he may find one more willing this time around in a bigger field this time around. The Irish seem to be queuing up to take the champion on and Sizing Europe a winner over course and distance may well justify favouritism in this having been cut to a rather short price in what looks a open race.

Osana Gave quite a bit of weight when beaten by Sizing Europe and with the hope of slightly less give in the ground could well give David Pipe a champion in only his 2nd full season as a trainer. Last year he came into the reckoning with a superb performance in the county hurdle where he set very interesting fractions to be beaten less then double figures despite seemly setting it up for the closers, this season has seen him improve again and there was no fluke in the win in the Bula hurdle in which he had the reigning champ well beaten back in 4th. Katchit who finished behind him that day was made to look very one paced when trying to close up and if Osana can skip his field then he may be very hard to peg back here and could finally loosen the Irish grip who has last season supreme winner along with the consistent Farmer Brown and the interesting inclusion of Catch Me who will be staying on. So many chances in the race it is likely to be decided by those at the head of the market I feel.

Advised Bet - Osana 3pts @ 5-1 (BF11-2)

4.00 William Hill handicap Chase

The handicap chase on day one has its usual mix of seasoned handicappers with a strong unexposed type as favourite in the shape of An Accordian who has progressed well through out this season and is clearly going the right way, however there is always a concern that he may make a error at the wrong time having in the past failed to jump this track in the same manner that he showed last time at Doncaster and with favourites in this race having a unlucky record it would be no surprise to see another one toppled here today. The handicap has some nice older types in the race with Ollie magern a former grade 1 winner and L'Ami And Monkerhostin two horses that ran with much credit in the gold cup a couple of season back and based on that form the former looks very well handicapped here today with just 11 stone to carry in this handicap that is lacking a lot of unexposed types this season.

Ofarel D'Airy could well be the surprise winner today for Paul Nichols as he is going the right way and could bring the champion trainer back into the winners enclosure for the first time this festival if jumping cleanly under the guidance of Ruby Walsh. New Alco is a eye catcher in this race for the dab handicapping hand of last years winning trainer Ferdy Murphy but needs to prove he stays 3 miles at championship pace which is likely to be cut out by the free going Ollie Magern.

L'Ami travels well in his races and should get a nice tow through in this race around a track that seems to suit him well and even though performances have been a bit laxed since a decent 3rd at the start of the season where he failed to stay the longer trip under top weight. The drop back to this distance under AP McCoy with some juice in the ground should be ideal especially that he is 13lbs lower then the start of the season and trained by a trainer that knows how to win this handicap if not having the favourite and looks the best chance of the JP pair which is always something to note from this owner when having more then one runner in a handicap.

Lankawi showed up well for a long way at Doncaster last time out and has a big run in him at some point this spring and should be monitored with Peter Bowen yard springing back to form around this time of year.

Advised Bet - L'Ami 3pts win @ 9-1 (BF9'S) & Ofarel D'Airy 1pt @ 12-1 (BF15's)

The Last two races on the day are watching races as the cross country can be a bizarre race and the handicap good thing from the weekend could easily make a mockery of the handicap for the same yard who pulled of the coupe last year as well.

Best of luck and hopefully a profitable Cheltenham will be had by all.

Well Chief